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Tortoise General Store's Hasami porcelain: A beauty in black

July 25, 2012|By Craig Nakano
  • TGS, the Tortoise General Store in Venice, recently released a black matte version of its Hasami porcelain collection, complementing the original "natural" color. The bowls and mugs can be augmented with porcelain or wood plates that double as lids, serving trays or coasters.
TGS, the Tortoise General Store in Venice, recently released a black matte… (Tortoise General Store )

Obsession of the moment: Hasami porcelain plates and bowls released in a new matte black finish by the Japanese design importer TGS, or Tortoise General Store, in Venice.

The Hasami porcelain is beautiful in its spare simplicity and smart function. The pieces nest nicely for storage. Optional oak lids pair well with the stone bowls and can be used separately as serving trays. TGS co-owner Keiko Shinomoto says  the collection has a nice back story too: It's part of a project in the southern Japanese town of Hasami, where a pottery tradition that dates to 1599 is ailing because of -- can you guess? -- inexpensive Chinese imports.

Hasami's first kilns were built more than 400 years ago, and the town's ceramics trade peaked in the 18th century. At the time, Hasami bottles containing soy sauce and sake made Nagasaki prefecture the only region in Japan exporting products to other countries, according to organizers of the current porcelain project.

Shinomoto's husband, TGS co-owner Takuhiro Shinomoto, designed the Hasami porcelain collection and served as the project's creative director. The pieces are made of stone from Japan's Amakusa islands, ground into powder. That powder is then transformed into a muddy clay and packed into plaster molds, each designed to account for 12% clay shrinkage in the kilns.

The black matte pieces are fired at about 1,650 degrees, then glazed, then fired again at nearly 2,400 degrees. The "natural" pieces have no glaze; the kiln temperatures are hot enough to melt tiny stones in the clay, Keiko Shinomoto said, and naturally seal the finish.

The TGS website shows black plates in just two sizes, $9 and $16, but Keiko said other sizes and bowls will be available in the black matte at prices slightly higher than the lighter "natural" original color. The optional oak lids/trays are $16 to $125, depending on size. Black mugs come in three sizes, $24 to $30.

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Email me at craig.nakano@latimes.com. Follow L.A. at Home on Twitter @latimeshome, on Pinterest at pinterest.com/latimeshome and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/latimeshome.

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